Taitano Family Translators

Bethany S. Martin, Editor, Guam-Micronesia Mission of Seventh-day Adventists

ISLES: A Tropical Isles Report from the Guam-Micronesia Mission of Seventh-day Adventists, Spring 2003, Special Issue
(Complete Magazine in PDF Format)

290 Chalan Palasyo, Agaña Heights, Guam, 96910, USA
Telephone: +1 671-477-9745, Fax: +1 671-477-5674, WWW: http://gmmsda.org
Willy S. Nobuo, President (2000-2003)
Bethany S. Martin, Editor (2002-2003): BethanySMartin@hotmail.com

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José Mendiola Taitano joined the Custino brothers and the Flores family in forming the first Protestant church on Guam. Born in 1840, Taitano was a Roman Catholic who later converted to Protestantism after discovering the Holy Scriptures while working as a whaler in the mid to late 1800s. After returning to Guam, he could not practice his new Biblically found faith under the prohibitive Spanish regime, but he could not be forced to practice Catholicism either. “So he waited and did nothing, only he discarded the grosser superstitions such as the wearing of Carmelite belts and other charms and amulets, and hoped and prayed for deliverance.”[1]

The era under the Spanish regime was brutal and cognitively and spiritually restrictive. It was a public misdemeanor to disobey the priests and many obeyed out of fear instead of conviction. The Bible was not allowed to be read and very few of them existed on island. Prior to the 1850s, Bibles had been secretly brought to Guam, perhaps by whaling ships, and “found their way into a few families, and were read with eagerness by the more earnest men.”[2] When one reads the Word of God, a hunger is stirred within the heart and a longing to know more of Jesus’ love takes place that only the Bible can quench. The Bread of Life ministers healing to the soul and the earnest seeker is compelled to share the Prince of Peace with other family and friends.

The reading of the Bible spread amongst the people, and “finally knowledge of this reached the priest’s ear; then the priest and ruler combined to stop it. Diligent search was made for the Bibles, and three large baskets of them were publicly burned in the plaza about 1856. Some successfully hid their Bibles and have them still. One remarkable man, José [Mendiola] Taitano, who has been reading the Book of books for many years, was long ago convinced that there was a better way….”[3]

The government and the Catholic church were against Taitano and kept a careful watch over him. When the Custino brothers arrived on Guam immediately following the American liberation in 1898, Taitano and his 10 children welcomed them joyously, recognizing that fellow

Protestants meant spiritual freedom for his heavy heart. “The priests threatened them, telling them that they were still under Spanish law, and would be punished as soon as the Americans left.”[4] But the Americans did not leave and the door was opened for freedom of worship and a spiritual liberation such as they had never known was executed, resulting in the first Protestant church formed by Francis Price and the Custino brothers.

God enables all people to come in contact with His Word. No matter what human restrictions are placed on the written Word, the King of the Universe loosens those bonds and brings Water to the thirsty. Though humanity may seek to silence the Holy Bible, the Ancient of Days looks down and preserves with loving care the Book of books. Though It may pass through the fire, the Lord of lords claims with sovereignty that His Word shall endure until time passes away. The Bible survived beyond all human efforts made to erase it from history, and it was not without the working of the Lord through people such as José Mendiola Taitano.

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Taitano Family Translators

José M. Taitano and his 10 children joined the Custino brothers and Price as members of the Congregation alist Church, the first Protestant church on Guam. Taitano and his family were key leaders of the church and worked at the Mission established in Adelup that included a school for boys and a school for girls. His daughters, Ana Taitano (Gay) and Rosa Taitano (Custino), were school teachers as well as Sunday School teachers at the Mission, and his son José San Nicolas Taitano lived at the Mission and worked as the groundskeeper and was a deacon in the church.[5] José M. Taitano not only served as a key leader in the church, but during the years between 1901 and 1905, he served as an associate justice of the Court of Appeals.[6] Taitano was a man of dedication and intellect that balanced his calling to serve God and to minister to his fellow man.

In letters written by Price to the American Board of Commission for Foreign Missions (ABCFM), he names a José Taitano as his tutor in the Chamorro language. Without specifying if it was José Mendiola Taitano or his son, José San Nicolas Taitano, the possibility is substantiated that it was José Mendiola Taitano who was referred to as the tutor because he had a working knowledge of English, Chamorro, and Spanish. José San Nicolas Taitano did not have a command of the English language until many years later.[7] Additionally, according to former Congressman Robert A. Underwood, the story passed down through the Taitano family was that José Mendiola Taitano was the most likely to have tutored Price because of his knowledge of the English language.

Under the tutelage of José M. Taitano, Price obtained the Chamorro language rather quickly and with much proficiency that Taitano complimented Price by saying, “You know more about the Chamorro language than I do.”[8]

When Price began working on translating the Holy Bible into the Chamorro language, the Taitano family played a significant part in aiding the translation of the Word of God. This divine role is one that should not go unrecognized as it is a substantial contribution to Christianity, the Chamorro people, and forever written in the books of Heaven.

Price worked with a teacher and several others at the Mission as part of the translating process. As mentioned before, Rosa Taitano Custino and Ana Taitano Gay were teachers at the Mission school and José S.N. Taitano worked as the groundskeeper. In a personal interview with Carlos Pangelinan Taitano, son of José San Nicolas Taitano, he recalls hearing as a young boy his family speaking of the Chamorro Bible. “They were very proud of that Bible,” says Taitano. “No one claimed to be the principal translator helping Rev. Price because they were all involved. José Mendiola Taitano, José San Nicolas Taitano, Ana Taitano Gay, Rosa Taitano (Custino), and Francisco Taitano all assisted in the translation of the Bible.” Underwood also states that, “Everyone was of assistance.” Reverend Joaquin Flores Sablan in his book, “My Mental Oddyssey,” additionally confirms the Taitano family as helping to translate the Scriptures.[9]

According to the recollection of Carlos P. Taitano, he says that his father, grandfather, uncles and aunts all served as advisors to Price as he worked on translating the Scriptures. When Price needed clarification or special assistance, he would enlist the help of whichever Taitano was around at the time. It is not surprising that Price did most of the translating on his own because he had a strong command of the Chamorro language. However, the Taitano family should be acknowledged as servants of Christ whom God entrusted with this most precious work of securing a Bible in the native language of His island people and should be added to the history books as such.

Faithful Stewards

José M. Taitano retired from the Courts in 1905 and entered retirement, continuing to serve as a dedicated leader of the Protestant church, and passed away on February 20, 1934 having lived a joyful 93 years.

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His son, José San Nicolas Taitano, continued to work as a groundskeeper for the Congregationalist Mission until it left in 1910. After the Mission closed, José San Nicolas Taitano continued shepherding the congregation and began farming his land. He was a faithful steward and took the Gospel to many people under much scrutiny. “I remember that people would throw stones at him during Bible studies in Agat,” says Carlos Pangelinan Taitano, son of José San Nicolas Taitano. “But the same people who would criticize and throw stones would hide in the bushes and listen to the Bible studies that were being conducted and to the music being sung. The people loved the songs we were singing and pretty soon the Catholics adopted many songs from the Protestants.”

Despite opposition, José San Nicolas Taitano labored diligently for the Lord, leading as many people as possible to the Word of God that brought fulfillment to his soul. He lived a full life and died in 1965 at the age of 90. Rosa Taitano married Joe Custino, Jr., and continued teaching at the Mission Day School until it closed shortly after the Congregationalists left. Ana Taitano Gay continued to serve as a teacher and Sunday School teacher and later became a Seventh-day Adventist, in 1950, after the Seventh-day Adventists arrived on Guam in 1946 and the SDA Mission was established in 1950. The land that the Guam-Micronesia Mission of Seventh-day Adventists, Agana Heights SDA Church, and Missionary housing across the street sits on was donated to the SDA Mission by Ana Taitano Gay and, at her request, a chapel was built on the property. The chapel was destroyed in a typhoon and the Agana Heights SDA Church was built to replace the chapel.

“They knew their Bible,” says Carlos P. Taitano referring to his father, José S.N. Taitano and aunts, Ana T. Gay and Rosa T. Custino. “They carried the Bible with them everywhere.”

The Taitano family was honorable, bold in character and steadfast in conviction. Enduring much social persecution, they held the Bible high and let the Word speak for Itself. “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.” (John 12:32)

While the Lord does not depend on human agents to sustain His written Word, it is the privilege of every man and woman to become co-laborers with the Creator of the universe in bringing more children into the knowledge of His infinite love. The Bible has withstood suppression, opposition, and agents who wish to silence its authority, yet it stands on its own firm Foundation. A Foundation that man cannot remove.


[1] Francis M. Price, “The Island of Guam and Its People,” The Missionary Review of The World, vol. 15, no. 1, Jan. 1902, pgs. 17-18.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Personal Interview with Carlos Pangelinan Taitano, April 3, 2003.

[6] The Guam Recorder, vol. 10, no. 12, March, 1934, p. 207.

[7] Personal Interview with Carlos Pangelinan Taitano, April 3, 2003.

[8] F.M. Price to William Haven, May 9, 1905. PABCFM, MARC [Richard F. Taitano Micronesian Area Research Center].

[9] Sablan, Joaquin Flores, “My Mental Oddyssey,” Stinson Press, Missouri, 1990, pgs. 122-123.

* Photographs courtesy of the Taitano family.

Table of Contents
President's Message
Letter from the Editor
The Resurrection of the Chamorro Bible
Who is Francis Price?
Taitano Family Translators
Why Did the Chamorro Bible Disappear?
Jesus Loves Me!
The Scriptures a Safeguard
The Transmission of the Bible to English
Chamorro Bible Project: Project Update

The Chamorro Bible In Print

Photograph accompanying Manguaguan na Palabran Si Yuus - God's Precious WordsManguaguan na Palabran Si Yuus – God's Precious Words
With the Photograph of the Day

The Great Earthquake and Catastrophic Tsunami of 2004
The Spectacular Clouds of the Transonic Flight Regime

ChamorroBible.org  ·  Francis Marion Price (1850-1937)  ·  The 1908 Chamorro Bible in Audio  ·  Chamorro Language Resources  ·  Acknowledgements  ·  ISLES, Spring 2003, Special Issue: The Resurrection of the (1908) Chamorro Bible  ·  Chamorro Bible Project  ·  Announcements  ·  Download